DUSHANBE, December 21, Asia-Plus -- On Wednesday December 20, Tajikistan’s  Government and the World Bank held an official launch of the Avian Influenza and Human Pandemic Preparedness and Response Project in the amount of USD 5 million.

We will recall that grant funding for this project was approved by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors in June.  The project is aimed to help the Tajik government minimize the risks that avian flu infection and other zoonoses may pose to humans and the poultry industry in Tajikistan.  

A December 20 meeting was presided over by Khairinisso Mavlonova, Deputy Prime-Minister on Social Protection and attended by representative of the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, Ministry of Health, and other concerned ministries and agencies, UNICEF, FAO, WHO, Project Management Unit and World Bank project team.

Khairinisso Mavlonova inaugurating the meeting noted that Tajikistan attaches great importance to avian influenza prevention and preparedness activities, and the project requires the utmost attention of all concerned government agencies and services.   “So far Tajikistan had no registered cases of avian influenza but we need to stay prepared as such an outbreak, if it occurs, may seriously affect the health and economic well being of rural communities,” said the deputy prime minister, “We fully realize the challenge and will take opportunity of this project to ensure proper prevention and preparedness facilities and public awareness throughout the country.”

Tajikistan has, so far, not had any recorded outbreaks of the highly pathogenic avian flu strain H5N1.  However, cases of Avian Influenza have been reported in China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkey, Iraq, India, and Afghanistan.  There is a risk of an H5N1 outbreak among poultry in Tajikistan through waterfowl migration and growing cross-border trade. The Government has therefore approved a Comprehensive Action Plan for Avian Influenza with technical assistance from several donors, including WHO, UNICEF and FAO.

The project will focus on three main areas: 1) preparedness and planning; 2) prevention through public awareness and surveillance; and 3) response and containment in case of an outbreak.

The estimated total cost of the project is around USD 5.45 million.  UNICEF, FAO and the World Health Organization will contribute US$448,000 to the project and will closely partner with the World Bank during its implementation. 

In general, State Veterinary Department has responsibility for implementation of the Animal Health Component together with the Institute of Zoology and Parasitology and Foot and Mouth Disease Institute.  Ministry of Health is responsible for implementation of the Human Health Component through the Republican Sanitary and Epidemiological Center and Medical Service Department.  Public Awareness and Information Component that cuts across multiple agencies is overseen by the Project Management Unit.

Mullojon Amirbekov, head of Tajik veterinary service, telling the meeting noted that according to the results of a survey conducted by the country’s center for strategic studies, more than 70 percent of those polled heard about avian flu, 55 percent of the surveyed do not know about ways to prevent the disease, and 34 percent of the surveyed medical workers heard about ways to prevent avian flu.  The main sources of information about bird flu there have been TV and radio. 

The Tajik veterinary service chief also noted that noted that equipment of 28 veterinary labs operating in the republic was installed in the Sixties of the 20 th century already and the labs require modernization.   With support of the UNFAO CO in Tajikistan the veterinary service has obtained a device fore carrying out express diagnostics, according to him.  

On the present epidemiological and epizootic situation, Amirbekov said that fowl in all poultry farms across the country are being vaccinated against Newcastle disease virus (NDV) and fowl plague.  “However, the taken measures are not so efficient as frequent electricity supplies disruptions hit the country and there no refrigerators that breaks conditions of keeping vaccines,” he said.